By Baylee Pendleton–
In a departure from its rich, anthemic predecessors, Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now” lacks the cohesiveness to take it from good to great.
Arcade Fire disrupted the indie-rock scene with its freshman album, “Funeral.” Tracks like “Wake Up” and “Crown of Love” embodied the band’s seemingly restless desire to pump meaning back into the genre. Arcade Fire continued to mix genres in unconventional ways, with its exploratory style culminating in the 2013 triumph, “Reflektor.” This album harkened to the band’s previous work while reaching new depths of sound and maintaining a cohesive theme.
“Everything Now” attempts to do the same—but it ultimately succumbs to the ever-popular crooning about life’s meaning, or lack thereof. “Creature Comforts” softly glimmers as an accessible and meaningful track, but is drowned out on both sides by the forgettable “Signs of Life” and the grating “Peter Pan.” The title track “Everything Now” wants to remind listeners of the 2004 gem “Wake Up,” but misses the mark with depressing lyrics that show no sign of hope like, “I’m in the black again / Can’t make it back again / We can just pretend / We’ll make it home again.” The album is bookended by a meta-statement on the dangers of digital accessibility with the twin tracks “Everything_Now (Continued)” that echo the same lyrics. But in seeking to point out society’s addiction to feedback loops, the album becomes one.
The latter half of the album is a better listen and reminds us of what makes Arcade Fire so great. These last tracks round out the album stylistically and give us listen-worthy grooves. “Put Your Money on Me” goes retro with synth elements and a memorable hook. “We Don’t Deserve Love” is moving and appropriately melancholy, and is one of the few tracks I would listen to on repeat. It’s the Arcade Fire we fell in love with: personal, rousing and human.
We need art that points out the cultural tropes of meaningless, despair and their social implications, but “Everything Now” seems bloated on its own cultural awareness. Arcade Fire has taken an ambitious step in a new direction. Time will tell if they can avoid the trap of claustrophobic emptiness on future records.